Saturday, May 30, 2009

War widow fights choice of Taluto to head Guard

Friday, May 29, 2009
By Justin Mason (Contact)Gazette Reporter

CAPITAL REGION — A Virginia senator is urging the U.S. Senate Armed Services Committee to delay Maj. Gen. Joseph Taluto’s confirmation as leader of the Army National Guard at the request of a war widow who alleges that he failed to bring her husband’s killer to justice.

Siobhan Esposito, the wife of Army Capt. Phillip Esposito, wrote a letter to Sen. Jim Webb, D-Va., voicing her opposition to the New York National Guard leader’s nomination. Among other charges lodged in the scathing correspondence, the widow faults Taluto, 61, for not responding appropriately to threats made by a noncommissioned officer and for overseeing a “compromised” investigation that resulted in the acquittal of her husband’s accused killer.

“At root, I hold that Gen. Taluto’s actions reveal that he has nothing less than a callous disregard for the lives and fate of his own men,” she wrote in the missive, which was dated four days after his nomination this month. “To somehow maintain that this general has displayed the integrity, trustworthiness and competence necessary to direct the affairs of the entire [Army] National Guard is to ignore his repeated and substantive failures.”

Esposito, 30, of Suffern, and 1st Lt. Louis Allen, 34, of Milford, Pa.. were both killed in an explosion in their room at one of Saddam Hussein’s former palaces in June 2005. Esposito had served as company commander in the 42nd Infantry Division of New York’s Guard, while Allen was the company’s operations officer.

Staff Sgt. Alberto Martinez, 41, of Troy, was arrested on murder charges after a soldier told military investigators that Martinez was at odds with Esposito and clashed with the officer regularly. One Army captain testified that Martinez told him he planned to “frag” Esposito, using the Vietnam War-era term referring to a soldier killing a superior.

At the time, Taluto was in Tikrit commanding the division and Task Force Liberty during its deployment. The onetime Schenectady resident returned to New York in November 2005 and was named the adjutant general of the state’s Guard three months later.

Martinez was tried on two counts of premeditated murder and had faced the death penalty in the case. But after nearly six weeks of testimony and two days of deliberation, a 14-member jury acquitted Martinez of all charges in December 2008.

Documents that surfaced in the months following the trial indicated that Martinez had signed an offer to plead guilty to the murder charges in exchange for a reduced sentence of life in prison. However, the prosecution rejected the offer after becoming concerned that the plea deal could make him eligible for parole after only 10 years in prison.

Webb, who is among 15 Democrats on the 26-member Armed Services Committee, contacted chairman Carl Levin, D-Mich., in writing last week. He has asked that the confirmation hearings be forestalled until all of Siobhan Esposito’s concerns can be fully vetted.

“Mrs. Esposito has raised serious allegations regarding [Maj.] Gen. Taluto’s command of the 42nd Infantry Division and the investigation into the death of her husband,” he said in his letter. “Owning to the gravity of her allegations, I believe that the full committee should not act on Maj. [Gen.] Taluto’s nomination until it ascertains the facts surrounding the matter.”

A spokeswoman for Webb later clarified that the senator hadn’t taken a position regarding Esposito’s allegations.

A spokesman from Levin’s office declined to comment on military confirmation hearings. Likewise, Eric Durr, spokesman for the state Division of Military and Naval Affairs, would not comment on the letters about Taluto’s confirmation.

“As long as the confirmation process is in the works, it would be inappropriate to comment on that,” he said.

However, Durr did indicate that Taluto’s command in Iraq wouldn’t ordinarily mean that he would be alerted to the problems that apparently existed between Martinez and Esposito. He said Taluto oversaw a command with more than 23,000 soldiers in 6 brigades deployed in “an area the size of West Virginia.”

“A general officer does not deal in company business,” he said. “Whatever tensions were going on in [Esposito’s company], Gen. Taluto would not have been aware of that.”

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Army post shuts down for anti-suicide event

CNN) -- A major United States military post is shutting down for three days following a rash of suicides, the post announced.

Troops from Fort Campbell, Kentucky, depart for the Persian Gulf in 2003.

Fort Campbell, home of the Army's 101st Airborne Division, is holding a three-day "suicide stand-down training event" starting Wednesday -- the second one it has held this year, a post spokeswoman told CNN.

At least 11 deaths of Fort Campbell soldiers this year are confirmed or suspected suicides, spokeswoman Kelly Tyler said. That's out of 64 confirmed or suspected suicides in the entire Army, according to official statistics. At that rate, the Army is on pace for a record number of suicides this year.

Read the entire story by clicking here.

--submitted by Patti Woodard

Monday, May 25, 2009

Dark Secrets -- Sexual Assault in the Military

Dateline, in Australia, has done an investigative report about sexual assault in the US Military. LaVena Johnson's story is prominently featured.

Read the entire transcript or view the video by clicking here.
Today is Memorial Day in the United States. For the family members in our group, every day is memorial day. We think about our children and spouses and dream of the day when we can finally get closure by having proper investigations done.

It should not be a multi-year struggle for each family to obtain investigation materials. It should not be a gargantuan struggle to get investigations re-opened on the basis of discrepancies and illogical conclusions within investigation reports.


Saturday, May 23, 2009

The Forgotten Casualties

May 22-24, 2009

Falling Through the Cracks of the Army's Duty of Care


It was just another tragic headline in a Florida newspaper, "Area woman killed in Iraq – Father confirms his daughter is third casualty in past three months". The article went on to describe how Army SPC Oprah Nestling, aged 24, (for reasons of confidentiality - not her real name or age), had been killed in combat overseas in January 2006. She was the third service member from the newspaper’s catchment area to become a fatality in as many months. No details were provided by the Department of Defense and her father declined to make any further comment.

Nestling’s name also briefly appeared as one of sixty-two service fatalities listed during the month of January 2006 on the website of the Iraq Coalition Casualty Count (, along with the names of a number of marines who had been killed in the same IED (Improvised Explosive Device) attack.

However, a few days later her name was removed from the casualty list altogether and no further information appeared in the local paper. In the months that followed there was desultory 'chatter' on the internet speculating that there had been some sort of army cover-up. At the time lurid rumors were widespread about unexplained deaths of female military personnel both overseas and on bases in the US. Further investigation revealed that SPC Nestling had not been killed on active service in Iraq but was supposedly found slumped dead on the floor of a barrack room (not her own) at Ft.Bragg, North Carolina.

Delay & obfuscation by military authorities

Fast forward a year and a half and the Army was still refusing to make available any information about Nestling’s death following requests submitted thru the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). The reason given was that an active investigation of the case was still in progress.

To read the entire story, click here.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

US army non-hostile deaths in Iraq exceed combat

05 May, 2009, 14:50

As the U.S. prepares to pull its troops out of Iraqi cities next month, American soldiers are still being killed in Iraq - but not in action.

The Pentagon says in the last few months, more troop members died in often preventable, non-hostile incidents, than in combat.

These incidents are accidents such as vehicle and helicopter crashes, illnesses, as well as accidental shootings, and are the now number one killer in Iraq. This is the case for the first time since the war began.

Read more

Compared to other conflicts, the US Army's share of nonbattle casualties is at a record high. A whole 20%, or 1 in 5, of all American servicemen deaths in Iraq are the result of nonbattle losses. In the Afghanistan campaign, this share is as high as 50%, although fewer troops were actually engaged in the conflict.

The main problem remains the lack of preparation, and as a result, all those men and women are suffering deaths that really could have been prevented.

Another factor is that many soldiers are serving on multiple tours and the fatigue is starting to take hold.

All this indicates that the troops are really worn out and sometimes are not effectively trained.
Suicides are also a cause of these non-hostile deaths.

At the same time, compared with other wars, the overall death toll in Iraq is considerably smaller.

In 2009, there have been 72 US military deaths in Iraq because of the accidents and illnesses, and only 67 in combat. Altogether, that makes a much smaller number than those who used to die in previous wars, such as Vietnam, for example.

However, this cannot serve as an excuse for the troops not being prepared, and the US army is going to take a lot of flak for this once the relatives of the dead realize that their loved ones died just because they were not trained properly.

Now it looks as though the military security officials are going to work hand in hand with the commanders of each and every unit to teach them the tactics of survival.

For whom the bell tolls

Comment by the RT military analyst Colonel Eugene Khrushchev

There are several reasons why the non-combat death toll outstrips KIA number in Iraq & Afghanistan, but ‘the lack of preparation’ is definitely not ‘the main problem’.


In fact, US GIs are the best trained in the world, no question about it (as the first Soviet officer to be a guest speaker at Fort Brag JFK Special Warfare school in 1990, I’ve been in touch with American vets since then as a Russian officer.)

The question is: The US military is ‘the best trained’ for what? For starters, there are two types of US forces:The bulk of the forces have been trained for conventional war, zeroing in on heavy-impact, short-term, high tempo blitzkrieg.

Last time I checked, it was perfectly executed by General Schwarzkopf in Desert Storm.Only Special Operations Forces, the cream of the crop, are trained for the post-Cold War challenge of asymmetrical war.

Generic military & Special Forces guys are worlds apart: they have totally divergent skill sets and problems.

The root of the problem

There is no such a thing as a conventional war in Iraq & Afghanistan.

Urban insurgency in one place and rural insurgency in another are just 2 distinct types of low-intensity conflicts which, together with special & stability ops, are part and parcel of asymmetrical war.

The main problem for the US Army in Afghanistan & Iraq is that the conventional forces, for all intent and purpose, cannot effectively cope with unconventional challenges.

For US generic grunts, it’s the psychological torture of the lost self-identity. Camouflaged as post-traumatic stress disorder, it results in dereliction of duty, alcohol & drug abuse, and a trigger-happy and reckless modus operandi.

The synergy of all those negative factors eventually leads to an abnormal spike in the non-combat attrition rate – when a subliminal search for suicide supersedes the sense of mission.
As for the Special Forces worries, it’s a totally different story…

Colonel Eugene Khrushchev's blog on RT

-- submitted by Patti Woodard

EDITORIAL: Enemy in the mirror

The Army has a bigger problem than private guns

Suicide is the third-leading noncombat cause of death in the U.S. military, according to Defense Department data. On at least one Army post, the response was a misguided effort to require some soldiers to register personal firearms.

The Army would not tell us how many soldiers have used private weapons to kill themselves. In the general population, firearms account for about half of all suicides nationwide each year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. However, owning a firearm doesn't raise the risk of playing Russian roulette, just as owning a private car doesn't increase the risk of intentionally driving off a cliff in desperation like Thelma and Louise. There is an underlying intention that manifests from what physicians call "suicidal ideation," which is the process of thinking about and planning to end one's life.

Some overzealous Army commanders appear to categorize private gun ownership, rather than depression and desperation, as the problem. In March, soldiers in Charlie Company, 3rd Battalion, 187th Infantry Regiment of the 101st Airborne Division at Fort Campbell, Ky., were told they would have to start registering their privately owned arms with their command. Post spokesman Cathy Gramling told us that the order came from the "subordinate unit commander." The soldiers also were told to provide the storage location of their personal weapons along with information on their state-issued concealed carry permits. Ms. Gramling told us the commander who spearheaded the effort thought he was acting within his authority to address "a number of negligent discharges of privately owned weapons." The program has since been suspended.

Read the entire story by clicking here.

Repeal the Feres Doctrine

Cindy Wilson was a 37 year old technical sergeant stationed at Langley Air Force Base. On February 20, 2007, she was to give birth to her first child. Sergeant Wilson was excited that her parents were making the trip from Georgia to experience the birth of their grandson. On that same day, Dr. Michael Carozza, the lead obstetrician on staff at Langley, had not even been issued his Virginia medical license. He was 31 years of age and had just completed his residency a few months before.

Just before midnight on Feb. 20, 2007, Sergeant Wilson gave birth by cesarean section to a healthy boy. But she never got to hold her baby. According to her medical records, a uterine artery was cut during the delivery, causing massive internal bleeding. The estimated blood loss was equivalent to the total blood volume of an average adult. Then, during frantic efforts to repair the damage, two surgical sponges were left in Wilson’s abdomen. Wilson's parents went to her Smithfield home to get some sleep. Around 4 a.m., her husband called. Wilson was going back to the operating room for emergency surgery caused by the sponges left in her body. When her parents got back to the hospital, “her room looked like a tornado had hit it,” Connie Wilson said. A piece of medical equipment was overturned and a needle lay on the floor.

Twelve hours after giving birth, she was dead. Dr. Carozza's Virginia medical license was issued on Feb. 21, 2007 – the day Cindy Wilson died. Carozza is still on the obstetrics staff at Langley.

In the following months, Sergeant Wilson's devastated parents got a second shock when they learned that they had no recourse – even for what seemed to them an egregious case of medical malpractice – because of a legal precedent known as the Feres Doctrine , which bars military members from recovery for personal injury or death "incurred incident to miltary service or duty." "Incident to service" means any and all activities, not just work-related military duties, to which the service member is exposed due to her military service- including use of base recreational facilities and receipt of health care services.

Read the entire story by clicking here.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

UK military loses in court over troop protection

LONDON (AP) — Britain's second-highest court ruled Monday that soldiers at war are covered by European human rights law, a decision that could compel the military to give troops on the battlefield better equipment and medical care.

The case centered on the death of a British soldier, Pvt. Jason Smith, 32, who died of heatstroke while serving in Iraq in 2003. An inquiry found that the military failed to recognize and take appropriate steps to address the difficulty Smith had adjusting to Iraq's climate.

The court upheld an earlier ruling stating that British soldiers serving in military operations are protected by European human rights laws that enshrine the right to life. Sending soldiers into conflict with inadequate equipment could violate that right, the court said.

Smith's mother, Catherine, said she hoped the ruling would prevent similar deaths.

Read the entire story by clicking here.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Attrition: The Enemy Has Your Back, And Your Feet

May 14, 2009: In the last eight months, U.S. troops in Iraq have had more to fear from accidents, disease and stress, than enemy action. In those eight months, 139 troops died, but only 48 percent as a result of combat. This is a trend that has been growing for over a year.

Through the end of last year, 4,300 U.S. troops have died in Iraq, and 19 percent of those fatalities were from non-combat causes. Most of the non-combat deaths were from accidents and disease. One of the major categories of non-combat death is vehicle accidents. In 2007, 20 percent of the non-combat deaths were from vehicle accidents. But in 2008, overall deaths declined by two thirds (from 904 in 2007, to 312 in 2008), but vehicle accident deaths went from 37 to 19.

Read the entire story by clicking here.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Suicidal Soldiers

The murder of five U.S. soldiers by their comrade exposes the depth of the military's mental health troubles. Elspeth Reeve on why the culture of humiliation and stigma makes matters worse.

Read the entire story by clicking here.

This is a story about "unit watch" submitted by Richard Stites.

Tillmans: Senate should scrutinize McChrystal

By Lara Jakes - The Associated PressPosted : Tuesday May 12, 2009 19:42:12 EDT

WASHINGTON — The parents of slain Army Ranger and NFL star Pat Tillman voiced concerns Tuesday that the general who played a role in mischaracterizing his death could be put in charge of military operations in Afghanistan.

In a brief interview with The Associated Press, Pat Tillman Sr. accused Lt. Gen. Stanley McChrystal of covering up the circumstances of the 2004 slaying.

“I do believe that guy participated in a falsified homicide investigation,” Pat Tillman Sr. said.
Separately, Mary Tillman called it “imperative” that McChrystal’s record be carefully considered before he is confirmed.

Pentagon spokesman Geoff Morrell said Defense Secretary Robert Gates has complete confidence in McChrystal, whom he hopes can be confirmed by the Senate before month’s end.

“We feel terrible for what the Tillman family went through, but this matter has been investigated thoroughly by the Pentagon, by the Congress, by outside experts, and all of them have come to the same conclusion: that there was no wrongdoing by Gen. McChrystal,” Morrell said.

Aides to the top Democrat and Republican on the Senate Armed Services Committee, which will consider the nomination, said they were unaware of any opposition to McChrystal.

McChrystal, a former “black ops” special forces chief credited with nabbing one of the most-wanted fugitives in Iraq, was tapped Monday to lead U.S. and NATO forces in Afghanistan. If confirmed by the Senate, he would replace Gen. David McKiernan, who was fired in an unusual wartime shake-up.

In April 2004, McChrystal approved paperwork awarding Tillman a Silver Star after he was killed by enemy fire — even though he suspected the Ranger had died by fratricide, according to Pentagon testimony later obtained by AP.

The testimony showed that McChrystal sent a memo to top generals imploring “our nation’s leaders,” specifically the president, to avoid cribbing the “devastating enemy fire” explanation from the award citation for their speeches. In 2007, the Army overruled a Pentagon recommendation that McChrystal be held accountable for his “misleading” actions.

In a book published last year, Mary Tillman accused McChrystal of helping create the false story line that she said “diminished Pat’s true actions.”

Her one-sentence e-mail to AP on Tuesday said: “It is imperative that Lt. General McChrystal be scrutinized carefully during the Senate hearings.”

Last year, however, the Senate unanimously approved promoting McChrystal from a two-star general to a three-star general as director of the Pentagon’s Joint Staff.

Similarly, this time around, Senate Armed Services Chairman Carl Levin, D-Mich., “does not foresee any problems with Gen. McChrystal’s confirmation” with the committee, a Levin aide said Tuesday.

Sen. John McCain of Arizona, the committee’s top Republican, backs the decision to change leadership in Afghanistan and will support McChrystal’s nomination, said Brooke Buchanan, a McCain spokeswoman.

McCain was highly critical of the Army’s handling of the Tillman investigation, and in April 2007 he called the service’s actions “inexcusable and unconscionable.”

--submitted by Patti Woodard

This is an important story because it points out that nearly every family has been told a web of lies by the military about the non-combat deaths of their loved ones. Why? Is this a part of military culture? What is the purpose? We just want the truth, plain and simple.


Monday, May 11, 2009

Reducing Suicide Rates in The Military

Army Major General Mark Graham lost two sons who were serving in the military. In 2003, Graham's 21-year-old son Kevin, a top ROTC cadet at the University of Kentucky, hanged himself after battling depression. Less than a year later, 23-year-old Jeff died when a roadside bomb exploded in Iraq.

Read the entire interview or listen by clicking here.

Major General Graham is the commander of Ft. Carson in Colorado.

U.S. soldier kills 5 fellow Americans at Baghdad base

Reporting from Baghdad -- A U.S. soldier shot to death five fellow American troops today at a base in Baghdad, the U.S. military said.

Read the entire story by clicking here.

Another story: click here.

Monday, May 04, 2009

Links to Audio of Radio Interviews

Some of our members gave radio interviews on the topic of improperly investigated non-combat deaths. To access the MP3 podcasts, click here.

Sunday, May 03, 2009

Accidental deaths plaguing US in Iraq

Military aiming to reduce toll
By Bryan Bender Globe Staff / May 3, 2009

WASHINGTON - The 130,000 American troops serving in Iraq are more likely to die in accidents, from natural causes, or in other "nonhostile" incidents than at the hands of insurgents, according to Defense Department statistics for the past eight months ending in April.

Read the entire story by clicking here.

Friday, May 01, 2009

Schofield sergeant in Iraq charged in death of fellow soldier

A 29-year-old Schofield Barracks soldier has been charged with accidentally shooting and killing a fellow 25th Infantry Division soldier in Iraq three months ago.

Read the entire story by clicking here.